Beauty, Honor, and Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts

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9780816639472: Beauty, Honor, and Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts

To the Plains Indians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, elaborately decorated hide shirts were symbols of bravery earned only by the most courageous of warriors. Those who had met the enemy in battle or slipped undetected into enemy camps to capture horses were awarded shirts specifically created to honor the wearer and the heroic deeds associated with him. Made from the skins of elk, deer, or mountain sheep, these spectacular garments were adorned with porcupine quills, paint, ribbons, locks of hair, and glass beads. Believed to hold intrinsic spiritual power, these shirts continue to play a large part in American Indian society today. Symbolizing honor, courage, and ancestral tradition, they are worn by tribal leaders at powwows and earned by students according to their academic and athletic accomplishments.

Beauty, Honor, and Tradition, a traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, presents a new perspective on these garments, their creation and history, and their place in the cultures of the Plains Indian tribes. Through photographs and detailed descriptions of fifty-three representative shirts crafted from the 1820s to the 1990s, this book explores the complex relationship between the shirts, their makers, and their wearers. Throughout the text the voices of individual Plains Indians speak of the personal and cultural significance of these magnificent garments.

Joseph D. Horse Capture is assistant curator in the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. They are coauthors of Warrior Artists (1998).

George P. Horse Capture is deputy assistant director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, and author of Powwow (1992).

Distributed for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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From Library Journal:

The exhibition of Plains Indian shirts, for which this book is the catalog, was assembled by the Horse Captures, father and son, who are affiliated, respectively, with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Their combined resources provide stunning examples of the honor shirts worn by leaders of Plains tribes in the past and a few from the present. The shirts themselves are featured not so much as a chronological history but with respect to type and to craftsmanship. These prized shirts were handed down ceremonially to the next owner and imbued with the sweat of their wearers as a link with the past. They are made of deerskin, fringed or edged with hair from vanquished foes, and decorated with exquisite beadwork or quilled strips (made by the woman most important to the wearer). Heavy on symbolism, the shirts draw attention to the weight of tradition and to the devoted craftsmanship involved in their making, as well as to the pride with which they were worn. For larger American Indian collections. Gay Neale, Meredithville, VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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